Eating and drinking are social group activities in Thailand and Laos, particularly in rural villages. Were in The West there is much more an isolated eating culture in the East and for sure in Thailand there is a group eating culture.
When eating, lengthy social ‘shit chat’ is not the norm as we often have in the West. The topics of conversation are relatively limited and a lot of time has to do with what you are eating or drinking or about family related things.
Food plays a central role in the life of Thai people. They tend to eat three meals a day, but with lots of snacking in between. Whenever I drive on my scooter to Mae Rim or Chiang Mai, day and night food sellers are working selling a wide variety of actually always fresh grilled, baked, cooked, steamed or (deep)fried food. Rice or sticky rice always is the main dish.
It is nice to see many Westerners or other tourist do not eat food prepared on the street. Their home doctors and the internet advise them not to do. Actually this is a shame because it’s the cheapest and most healthy food you can find. This food selling is the primary job of this ‘shop’ owners. If there ever is something wrong mouth to mouth ‘marketing’ will be responsible they have to close their ‘business’ so no income… I invite everybody to try, taste and eat the more than delicious (and cheap) street food.
The food is made with many ingredients that Westerners are not so familiar with, such as lemon grass, tamarind, galangal, and of course lots of red hot chilies that give the food such a tremendous depth of taste and spiciness.
In many parts of rural Thailand people also enjoy eating a wide variety of food made up from wildlife caught in the fields, waterholes, rivers and lakes. Insects and ant eggs are specialties.
In families the food is usually prepared and cooked outside even if the house has an inside kitchen (most houses in the rural parts don’t). One or two small cooking stoves (as shown on the picture) using charcoal and/or wood is used to cook the food.
Food ingredients are invariably very fresh as I told before. Having just been picked or killed that day. Ingredients such as chicken and fish are normally killed just prior to cooking.
During my visit to the sister of my girlfriend in Laos we got in the evening chicken soup (I want to be honest I have never taste such a delicious soup in my life before). The food preparation (killing the chicken) was done in my sight. There where I did not want to see the slaughter of two huge water buffalos and three big pigs in sight of me as preparation for the wedding party, now I could not choose to miss this ritual. Here it’s very normal and part of life. I grow up totally divorced from the food raising and killing process.
The sensitivity shown by me, also with other animals during that week, was not really understood and brought a lot of fun talk.
Eating (and drinking) is generally eaten on a large slightly raised (In Laos the chickens and ducks walked underneath) platform made of wood and bamboo. On that platform, mostly covered with a reed floor mat, the food is placed on a metal round again slightly raised big plate. Each person has his/her own bowl and utensils (spoon and fork and sometimes chopsticks, no knife).
Enough for this week.